Born Sinner is a solid album from J. Cole as one cohesive opus. The production and rapping are great, but the hardest thing to do is make an album that retains a message and sticks with it through every track.
“…should this be my last breath i’m blessed cause it was purposeful/
never got to church to worship lord but please be merciful…”
“…I’m a born sinner but I live better than that…”
Obviously, there are some religious undertones being cited in this instance. It is hard to imagine that it was J. Cole’s intention to praise Jesus on this one though. Sometimes, religion works out as a good stepping stone to speak regarding a variety of topics and issues in an effective way. Good vs. Evil, Right vs. Wrong, Light vs. Dark… these are all prevalent discussions when it comes to the church and they provide a great launching point to vent on life issues, such as who we are against, the constant scrutiny of not only ourselves, but in the grand scheme of things, as well.
Every song on Born Sinner falls into this semi-sacred idea in some shape or form. Some are more comical in their delivery, some more serious; but they all find J. Cole reflecting in some shape or form on who he is, what he thinks is right and sometimes how he fails to meet those ideals.
“…my prerogative n**** is to hit and never commit/
now realizing when i hit she never forgets/
so every time i ignored her telephone call sayin’ i’d hit her back, knowing i’m never gon’ call, she was hurtin’/
now she’s starin’ dead in my face she was smirkin’/
like yea i remember and nah you ain’t worth shit n****…”
From the production side of things, there are certain instrumentation choices that imply that implicit gospel atmosphere – live vocal choirs, acoustic pianos, lots of claps, etc. A myriad of tracks give you that soulful vibe and the mixing of these certain instrumental choices with more traditional hip hop production provides an organic and almost rustic, church type sound, though with a modern twist.
Again, the album flows together nicely, and over the course of the sixteen tracks, it’s hard to ever really feel bored or to feel as if the album wasn’t going anywhere. There are four solid, standout tracks that really prove to be engaging in every way, shape and form. They are “Power Trip (feat. Miguel),” “She Knows,” “Crooked Smile (feat. TLC)” and “Born Sinner (feat. James Fauntelroy).”
J. Cole did a stellar job on delivering invigorating rhyme schemes, as well as some pretty catchy tracks. “Crooked Smile” has an almost ear-worm hook and a nice message to all the ladies out there that they are beautiful no matter what. “Power Trip” also features a relationship/love theme with Miguel coming through on the hook as he always does. These popular song themes further demonstrate J. Cole’s ability to appeal to a mainstream audience while tactically inserting tried and true lyricism into his songs.
“Villuminati” and “Born Sinner,” the first and last tracks on the album respectively, are the perfect bookends for this project. Cole progresses throughout the album, touching on life, love, the cost of success and remaining true to himself as an artist. By the end, one can’t help but to be satisfied. Overall, Born Sinner is a home run for this emcee’s sophomore effort. The main theme and message that prevails throughout, as well as the music is surely of fine substance and the utmost quality.
2) Kerney Sermon (Skit)
3) LAnd of the Snakes
4) Power Trip (feat. Miguel)
5) Mo Money (Interlude)
8) She Knows (feat. Amber Coffman)
9) Rich N*****
10) Where’s Jermaine? (Skit)
11) Forbidden Fruit (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
12) Chaining Day
13) Ain’t That Some Shit (Interlude)
14) Crooked Smile (feat. TLC)
15) Let Nas Down
16) Born Sinner (feat. James Fauntleroy)